There are ads just about everywhere you look these days. In short, we’re being bombarded, but some people may not realise that marketing is more than just getting your product out there. It is, in fact, a very complicated science. Some companies still use mass marketing, which has its roots in the Roaring Twenties, even though hyper-targeting is popular now. For example, personalised Instagram ads are a good example of this. So, what exactly is mass marketing, and does it still work?
How does mass marketing work?
Mass marketing is a strategy in which a single campaign is used to reach a large number of people. In other words, the ad should be interesting to anyone who might see it. At first glance, this may look like what all companies do, but non-mass marketing is much more complicated. Marketers do a lot of research on sociology and the lives and buying habits of the people they want to reach in the demographics they are interested in. How important are these studies on marketing? Well, the word “teenager” didn’t exist until marketers started trying to reach people of that age.
In marketing that isn’t mass-market, ads for the same product can look very different depending on where they appear. For example, the same jewellery company might show a picture of a beautiful actress wearing a necklace in a magazine that most women read, but they might show something totally different in a magazine that most men read.
In mass marketing, on the other hand, the jewellery company would only run one ad, no matter who saw it or where. Coca-way Cola’s of marketing to a large number of people is one of the most well-known. Over the years, the company has run many ads with its famous polar bears, for example. These ads are meant to be memorable and appealing to everyone, not just a certain group of Coke drinkers.
How mass marketing came to be
In the 1920s, radio changed both entertainment and marketing in a way that couldn’t be changed back. Before that, most ads were targeted because they were in magazines that were read by a certain type of person. Even now, it would be pretty strange to see an ad for tools for building submarines in, say, O, The Oprah Magazine.
But when radios came out, advertisers in the 1920s wanted to get the most out of their money and reach more people than ever before. It also helped that people were glued to their radios, just like we are glued to our TVs and phones today. So, this form of advertising that works for everyone was born. Soon, companies that used the strategy ran the same effective ads on TV, in newspapers, and on billboards. This definitely changed the way Americans market their products and services.
Why mass marketing is a good idea
Even though mass marketing is based on the idea that one size fits all, it is not just a cheap way for advertisers to spend as much as possible. In fact, it forces marketers to get creative when making the one big ad that will be shown on many channels. Think of the McDonald’s song or the “taste the rainbow” slogan on Skittles. What are they both like? People all over the world can’t stop thinking about them.
Mass marketing uses phrases and images that stick around for a long time. These phrases and images become strong signs of a brand. All parts of the public get the same strong message from a single campaign, which raises brand awareness and creates a unique brand identity. In a nutshell, the more people see an ad, the more likely they are to support it. Mass marketing tries to get people to be loyal to a brand by making it easy for them to remember it or by making it the first thing they think of.
What’s wrong with mass marketing?
Mass marketing can work, but marketers have also had a lot of success by focusing on the specifics of each demographic. Mass marketing has the potential to reach a lot of people, but it also has the potential to turn away a lot of those people. It’s hard to make a message that everyone will really like, and first impressions are important. In reality, different people have different reasons for being interested in different products. In short, a mass marketing campaign is a gamble, and while some marketers have won millions, others have lost millions.
Also, really effective mass marketing campaigns can be too expensive for some businesses. One wouldn’t be wrong to think that mass marketing usually comes with a huge price tag. If you want your message to reach everyone, you need to spread it far and wide. One newspaper ad won’t do it, even if that newspaper seems to have a lot of readers.
Instead, a good mass marketing campaign might include ads in more than one newspaper, on more than one radio station or TV channel, and on more than one social media site. Not only that, but you’ll also need different pay-per-click ads. Needless to say, the costs can add up quickly, which is why mass marketing is usually done by big companies and not by the family-owned business down the street.
Problems with mass marketing
Pizza Hut used a mix of mass marketing and viral marketing to make a crazy contest during the 2012 Presidential election. Anyone who went to a certain debate and asked then-candidates Barack Obama and Mitt Romney which pizza toppings they liked best, sausage or pepperoni, would get free pizza for life. People were upset, so Pizza Hut got rid of the crazy idea and came up with something else that didn’t involve the presidential candidates.
All of this goes to show that mass marketing that doesn’t connect with the public can become controversial. For Pizza Hut, people were at best unsure about the campaign and at worst very angry about it. Also, Pizza Hut was in the news for all the wrong reasons, and this large-scale marketing campaign made the brand look bad. (Maybe, after all, not all press is good press.)
What’s one more good example? In the 1980s, Coca-Cola started a big marketing campaign for New Coke, which was a new version of Coca-Cola that was supposed to be sweeter to compete with Pepsi. The only thing the advertisement did was give customers a reason to complain about the new formula. Even though a lot of people knew about New Coke, the public didn’t like the new formula, so it was taken off the shelves. This is a good example of how risky mass marketing can be. If it doesn’t work, it fails badly.
Mass marketing has a lot of pros and cons. It can bring a brand out of obscurity and into the limelight, but it’s so expensive that marketers need to get it right the first time. Mass marketing could be the key to success for a business that wants to reach a bigger market, but it might be best to go into it with some caution.